The Paradox of Recovery: “We Keep What We Have By Giving It Away!”

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July 24, 2014
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August 15, 2014

The Paradox of Recovery: “We Keep What We Have By Giving It Away!”

podcast-icon Listen to: The Paradox of Recovery
Read by: Rebecca Balko
Length: 9:09

There are certain things that very young children really do not yet have a concept of. Things such as: Time; Parents being real people; The world outside of themselves; and Monetary value. As a little girl I absolutely LOVED pennies! I would collect all the pennies I could find, including the ones my mom and dad would give to me. I can remember one day experiencing the realization that all my pennies were actually “real money” and could enable me to buy “real candy”! (Yes, it’s been that long!) My love for pennies actually grew to a fever pitch, as I would pour jars full, into piles on the floor, gathering as many as possible into my hands, allowing them to slide off my tiny palms to the floor making the unmistakable sound “cling-cling” of money! I would count them over and over, thinking of how many pieces of gum and candy were represented in each pile and my little heart would beat with joy and excitement at the mere thought of it! Of course the ugly side of this joy was in that I found myself far less willing to share my pennies because “they were MINE!” I hoarded them in jars all over my room and just relished the fact that they ALL BELONGED TO ME!

Sadly, this tendency did not improve with age. As I got older, around the 4-7 year old period, my mom would sometimes give me money, (usually a few dollars), when we went to the grocery store. The deal was that I could go to the isle that had the children’s small toys and pick something within the price range that she had given me, to then purchase myself at the register. I would always be grateful and on board with the plan…that is, until we got to the register. The person working the register would put in the amount of the item and tell me how much to give her, and then it would happen…something in my head would just, (for lack of a better term), *snap*! You see, I loved paper money even MORE than I loved pennies, and as much as I wanted that toy, I wanted to ALSO keep the money that was in my greedy little hand.

It is usually at our family gatherings, that we begin recounting funny family stories, when this particular series of events will generally be shared by my mom. As my mom tells the story she states that: I would clench the bills in my small hand, look at her and say, “NO! I DON’T want to!”  My mother would point out to me that if I wanted the toy I would have to pay for it with my money and as she recalls it ~ emotion would begin running high as I declared, “I want the toyyyyyyy….and I want my moneyyyyyy!!!!” This would inevitably lead to my mother grabbing my wrist in and effort to pry the bills from the death grip I had now placed on them, as I, (by my mothers account), would go into a state of shrieking hysteria ~ sweat, tears and mild breathing spasms included. Needless to say it was an exhausting experience for all involved and was only put to an abrupt end when my mother would quietly bend down and whisper in my ear those magical words that could return sanity to me in the blink of an eye…”If you don’t quit, you are going to have a surprise when you get home.” Believe me when I say…It was NOT a good surprise!

As a teenager my sister and I would often order pizza to be delivered to our home. I remember realizing at one point that there tends to be one particular half of a delivered pizza that is ALWAYS “cheesier” than the other half. I would almost break my neck trying to claim “my half” of the pizza, (obviously the cheesiest half), ahead of my sister! Of course my sister, (being five years my elder), knew stealth tactical moves that I was not yet aware of. When the box opened, faster than you could blink your eyes, she would lick her hand and rub it across the top of the cheesiest half and look at me laughing and saying, “My side!”. It took time and practice, but eventually I got faster and this process became a battle to the death. When I did finally experience a victory, do you think that I ever once thought about sharing? “NO!”

I’m SURE I need not even begin to share what I was like in regards to my mood and mind altering substances in addiction right?!

So then one day I came into treatment and recovery, and began to learn about all of these wonderful tools, (like a good counselor, sponsor, a good home group, etc..), that could help me to not only live without drugs and alcohol, but more importantly, to be able to experience joy and contentment. My response to these tools was as follows: With regards to the counselor who worked with me, I found myself wanting him to be “my” counselor; With the woman who agreed to sponsor me… wanting her to be “my” sponsor and viewing the home group as quite literally being “mine”! I didn’t want to “share them”. I didn’t want to share “my” recovery either. In my mind, this was MY life and MY recovery ~ I actually had a fear that if I didn’t keep it all to myself, then I would somehow lose it! (Some of us are sicker than others…and I was one of them, though I never saw it that way.)

You see, recovery is truly a paradox, in that it is not logical. Let’s begin with the fact that the disease of addiction is: progressive, incurable and fatal….and yet ~ “Recovery is possible”. That is a contradiction, is it not? How about these: We gain power through the admission of our powerlessness; To be saved I have to “let go”; To win recovery, I have to “surrender”; and To keep what I have, I have to “give it away!”

The whole concept that I had to “give away” the recovery that I had worked for…made no sense to me AT ALL. After all, wasn’t I supposed to look out for ME? Of course, what I didn’t really understand at that time, was that this was a program with spiritually based principles, that were designed to enable me to develop an interactive relationship with a Power greater than myself. That is…a God who, (in the face of my finiteness), is infinite and has limitless provisions for not only my recovery, but for that of everyone.

It has been my experience for quite a long time now, (where I once thought that by giving what I had in my recovery to others, I would put myself in danger of not having what I needed when I needed it), that instead ~ the more I give, quite literally multiplies in how it comes back! It is a never ending source that freely flows as long as the gate is left “open” to “give away” the very things that have made our life better! In my sobriety I have found that taking this principle to great extremes has not only kept me clean/sober, but has done far more towards giving me a consistent sense of happiness, joy, peace and contentment!

© Rebecca Balko 2008-2014